Make a Difference Scholarship

Honoring memory of three Backstrom brothers killed in collision with drunk driver

DCTC Counselor Nancy Bailey, Leah Lundgaard, Connie Backstrom, Nathan Backstrom, Dina Ryro, Andy Chemisky, DCTC President Ron Thomas

The world of the Backstrom family was forever changed October 10, 2004, when they heard the words, “We’re sorry to inform you…”

Nathan and Connie Backstrom learned that three of their five sons were dead—Matthew, 20, Justin, 17, and Jacob, 16—the victims of an alcohol-related crash, their lives cut short by the conduct of a stranger who chose to drink too much and talk on a cell phone while driving a motor vehicle erratically and too fast.

Since the crash, the Backstroms, with their two surviving sons, Charles and Ryan, have shared their story at mock crashes, high schools, churches and special events, hoping that by putting real faces on the victims, they might help others grasp the terrible reality of drunk driving.

In memory of the three brothers, DCTC has established the Make a Difference Scholarship. Matthew Backstrom was a Graphic Design Technology student at DCTC. Jacob wanted to be a U.S. Marine helicopter pilot. Justin had career plans to be a chef. Three DCTC students have each been awarded a $1,000 scholarship in their honor.

“Connie and Nathan Backstrom endured the worst trauma imaginable for parents,” said DCTC President Ronald E. Thomas. “Their work to teach the community about the dangers of drinking while driving is making a difference. They also counsel others on how to cope with the loss of child. Their wisdom and fortitude serve to inspire everyone they meet.”

Make a Difference Scholarship

  • Andy Chemisky
    Age: 18
    Hometown: Hastings, Minn.
    Major: Photography, A.A.S. degree | Photographic Imaging Technology, A.A.S. degree
  • Dina Ryro
    Age: 23
    Hometown: Eldoret, Kenya
    Major: Practical Nursing, A.A.S. degree
  • Leah Lundgaard
    Age: 28
    Hometown: Ellsworth, Minn.
    Major: Graphic Design Technology, A.A.S. degree
To learn more about how to raise awareness about the perils of driving under the influence, please visit Backstrom Brothers.